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The Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions on Personal Injury Claims in Florida

04/11/2024
Personal Injury
BY

If you’ve suffered any type of personal injury that leaves you with large medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages, you may be able to file suit against the insurance company of the negligent party. But one thing you must know is that a defendant’s insurance company is working adversely to your interests. This means that they will seek to discover or uncover any evidence that will allow them to reduce their payment to you. One of the things they will be looking for is whether you have any pre-existing medical or physical conditions that would allow them to offer you reduced compensation.

Let’s start with a short primer on personal injury law in Florida and then move on to how pre-existing conditions affect your compensation.

Elements of a Personal Injury Case

There are three major elements of a personal injury case: liability, causation, and damages. Each of these factors must be proven before you can receive compensation for your injury. 

The first element is liability – that is, who caused the accident? In some cases, this is not difficult to discern. For example, if you were injured because a restaurant server spilled hot coffee on you, the server would likely be the liable party or at least one of the liable parties. However, if you suffered a slip or fall on someone else’s property, the negligent party may be more difficult to identify. It could be the property owner, the lessor of the property, a contractor, a subcontractor, a maintenance company, or some other party. 

The second element is causation. This refers to the causal relationship between one person’s conduct and another person’s injury. To show that a negligent party is liable for your injuries, you must first prove they caused them.

The third element is damages. You have to show that you have incurred compensable damages, meaning medical costs, lost income, other out-of-pocket costs, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and other provable economic and non-economic damages. To be more specific, economic damages are the calculable costs that a victim has already lost, such as the total costs of medical treatment and the amount of wages you were unable to earn. Non-economic damages, also called pain and suffering damages, are awarded on top of out-of-pocket losses and are future-looking.

Out-of-pocket costs are relatively straightforward to calculate. You’ll have copies of medical bills, as well as documentation involving lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses. To calculate pain and suffering, Florida juries can consider a variety of factors, including how severe your injuries are, the limitations they impose on your everyday life, and past, current and future suffering. These damages are specific to the injured person and situation. For example, damages incurred by a professional dancer who loses the use of his legs in a car crash will likely be greater than those incurred by an already wheelchair-bound person who loses the use of a leg. 

Once you’ve demonstrated that you’ve met the three elements of a personal injury case, you must demonstrate the extent of your injuries and how they affect your day-to-day life. Every injury is unique and can have various complications depending on the victim’s lifestyle and habits. We recommend that you keep a diary to write down all the difficulties you experience due to your injuries, as it provides a more complete picture of their impact and how they’re likely to affect your future.

How Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Damage Calculations

A pre-existing condition is a physical or mental condition or ailment that you had before an accident. For example, back problems, high blood pressure, depression, and many other diseases are pre-existing conditions. If you’ve suffered from these kinds of issues, you cannot credibly state that the accident caused them. You can, however, state that the accident made your condition worse. 

For example, degenerative disc disease is often a pre-existing condition associated with aging, but physical traumas such as car and truck accidents can lead to injuries that exacerbate the condition. Something as seemingly harmless as a soft tissue injury, like a minor whiplash from a rear-end collision can aggravate a person’s degenerative disc disease and cause massive amounts of pain and discomfort.

When a person’s pre-existing condition is permanently aggravated by an accident or new injury, the injured person suffers permanent damages or changes to the normal course of an ailment or condition. The permanent aggravation of that condition causes damage that will never be fully reversed or healed. Thus, the person is worse off healthwise than before the accident. 

Things get difficult when a pre-existing condition is associated with the injury caused by the accident. Note that it is vital to disclose your pre-existing condition to your attorney when pursuing a personal injury case. By being honest and upfront about a pre-existing condition, you and your attorney can show how the accident aggravated it.

The truth is that many insurance companies will try to use a pre-existing condition as an excuse to deny your claim or pay you less than it’s worth. While you cannot recover compensation for a condition that you had before the accident, you may be able to collect damages if the accident worsened your condition. An insurance company does not have the right to deny a claim simply because you have a pre-existing condition. 

Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today

A claim that involves a pre-existing condition can become complicated very quickly. Therefore, it’s very important to consult a highly skilled Florida personal injury attorney who can help you collect relevant past and current medical documentation that proves how the accident worsened your pre-existing condition. Skilled and experienced legal representation can reduce your risk of a claim denial or low offer, ensuring your rights remain financially compensated despite your pre-existing condition. Contact Searcy Denney today at 800-780-8607 to learn more about how we can guide you through your personal injury case. 

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